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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Past?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Past

Activities in the Body Centers

The past exists in us as activity, and the content of personality is an activity, a movement. Ego activity is the substance of suffering; it is contraction itself. You can see this more specifically if you look at the activity in the centers of the body. If you look at the activity in the head, you’ll see concern and worry. In the heart, it’s a sense of guilt and frustration. Looking at activity in the belly, you’ll see it as attachment and desire. But it is all the same thing: ego activity. And ego activity is always concerned with issues from your past. It is what is called personal karma, or the wheel of life and death. It is the movement of your mind, your personality, your choices, preferences, judgments, resistances – anything you do actively.

Dredging up Memories of Childhood Object Relations

We can see that this activity of personality—which consists of reacting to situations by dredging up memories of certain childhood object relations that are somehow associated with the situation, identifying with one or another of the images in the object relation and then manifesting certain automatic emotions and behaviors—completely lacks freshness, newness. It is a reaction of the past to the present. Being, on the other hand, is the absence of such reactions. Being means no reaction, no mental activity that defines who or what one is. In fact, Being is not an activity at all; it is an existence, a suchness, a thereness, a presence that is not doing anything to be there. Since Being is itself existence, it does not need the mind to be there. It is like a physical object, which does not need the activity of mind to exist. The ego structure, on the other hand, is maintained, must be maintained, by the constant activity and reactivity of the mind.

How the Past Exists in Us Now

What are the impurities of the personality? What will be clarified from the personality? The answer is simple: the past. The thickness, the dullness, the suffering that you experience as the personality are there because the personality does not exist in its pure form. It carries the past with it, and the past exists as conflicts, memories, undischarged feelings, misunderstandings, ignorance, and all the reactions, associations, and fantasies corresponding to all the ignorance from the past.

Living in the Old Dead World

The moment you know what to do, you are already using the past. You are already taking direction. You’ve already separated things: you are choosing one part of your mind over another when you say, “I know what to do.” Knowing reality, knowing what to do about it, wanting something from reality, and desiring it, feeling dissatisfied by it – all these are indications of living in the old, dead world.

Questioning the Influences from the Past

Can you exist as an inquiry, an inquiry into the truth? Are you here just to live, work, eat, love, hate, have children, and die? Can you let go of what you believe you have? Can your mind empty itself of all your possessions, beliefs, theories, knowledge, understanding, and simply remain as a search, a pure inquiry not influenced by anyone or anything, even your own past? Even if you felt love and freedom and relaxation and so on in the past, what makes you think these things are what you need at this moment? The insights you had in the past might have been right, but how do you know they are what you need now and in the future? In order to find out, all you can do is let them go. Can you remain completely ignorant, unknowing; can you let your mind go, not impose anything on your mind, and at the same time not go dead, not become unconscious? Can we rid ourselves of all influences, of the influences of others’ ideas and of our own past, and remain in the now, as an inquiry? You can observe that every time someone says something that sounds true, or every time you have an insight, you say, “Oh, wonderful, that must be it.” You want to put out the flame. You want the first answer that comes to silence the questioning. Why are we in such haste to have answers? We jump on the first promise of salvation that comes. Why not stay with the question? What makes you think that salvation is the answer, that freedom is the answer? What makes you think that enlightenment is the answer? What makes you think that love is the answer? You might feel that you want these things, but how do you know that getting them is the best thing that could happen in this moment? How do you know whether you’re supposed to be dead or alive, rich or poor, free or enslaved? Is it possible to let your mind be free?

The Barrier of Non-Metabolized Past Object Relations

It is important to notice that part of the process of realization of Pure Being is the metabolism of some object relations. This means psychodynamic and structural work can lead to this dimension of experience. This is usually completely ignored by spiritual teachings, which makes the realization of this dimension difficult and extremely rare. We see here that a large part of the barrier against this dimension of Being is the existence of nonmetabolized past object relations. Most spiritual teachings focus on the existential and epistemological barriers, which are only some of the relevant issues. In the Diamond Approach, we see that consideration of the psychodynamic and structural issues is very helpful in realizing these deep aspects of Being, and integrating them in a deep personal way. In fact, we see such issues to be the primary ones, and the phenomenological-existential and epistemological ones as much easier to deal with.

The Now is Not Continuous with the Past but with the Absolute as Source

It is clear in such experience that there is only the now, that the now is not caused by the past, but is continuously generated out of the absolute. There is the certainty that there is no continuity in time and no movement in space and time. There is only the continual manifestation of appearance, as a cosmic and universal act, all at once. There is absolutely no room in this perception for individual action. There is only cosmic continual appearing, beyond which is the mystery of the absolute. There is only the now, which is not continuous with the past, but with the absolute as source. It is interesting that not only sight is appearance, but also hearing, and the input of all the senses. Sound does not seem to come from various sources, for that implies a process in time. We perceive sound only in the now, as originating from the absolute. We see the absolute as the reality behind the appearance, penetrating the surface of appearance and suffusing it. A deep sense of peace pervades, within a blissful harmony.

There Cannot be Freedom from the Ego as Long as One Views Himself as an Extension of His Personal History

Thus there cannot be freedom from this ego structure as long as one is attached and completely lost in his personal life, and as long as one continues to view himself as an extension of his unique personal history. For complete freedom from this ego individuality, which is the same as completely establishing the Personal Essence, one must be free from the supports of this ego structure, the personal life and personal history. Only when these supports are exposed and then transcended does the true support for the Personal Essence arise, through the action of the Impersonal aspect. In other words, just as the Personal Essence exposes the individuality of ego, the Impersonal aspect exposes the support of such individuality. One could say that the full realization and understanding of the Personal Essence shifts the sense of being a person from ego to Being. This then exposes the deep supports for the individual ego structure, which is seen as inseparable from the personal life and history. This latter perception is possible only from the Impersonal aspect. It is interesting to notice that this transition happens only through the combined influence of the full realization of the true Personal Essence and the transcendent awareness of the Impersonal aspect.

We Know Ourselves Through the Veil of Memory

Under normal circumstances we experience ourselves only partially. We do not experience ourselves as we are in ourselves, in our authentic reality or essence. Instead, we experience ourselves through thick veils of ideas, ideals, beliefs, images, reactions, memories, desires, hopes, prejudices, attitudes, assumptions, positions, identifications, ego structures, labels and accumulated knowledge—in other words, through the influence of all of our past experiences. We literally experience ourselves through the past, through the totality of our personal past, instead of freshly, in the present moment. Only when we have experienced another way of knowing ourselves is it possible to appreciate the enormous effect all this mental baggage has on our normal experience of ourselves. We see, then, that our awareness of ourselves has become so fragmented, so indirect, so burdened by mental accretions, that even what we take to be authenticity is only a reflection of a reflection of our innate and fundamental authenticity. The mental images and attitudes that determine how we experience ourselves form the basis of a whole implicit world view. We also experience ourselves only indirectly, as a subject experiencing an object. We are aware of ourselves as an object like other objects, seeing ourselves in the world as one object among others. Even when one is aware of oneself as perceiver or subject, this perception is different from the direct sense of our facticity, from the fact of our existence. We still know ourselves through the veil of memory.

With Essence there is No Identification with Past Experience

Essence, on the contrary, has nothing to do with identification. It exists purely as itself. There is no identification with past experience or any self-image at all. In fact, its presence is concomitant to the absence of identification with any self-image or psychic structure. When we are identified with a self-image we acquired in the past, we are not being our true nature. This means that for the realization of essence the first step is to disidentify, to see that we are not whatever self-image (self-representation) we have, that we are not whatever content we find, physical, emotional, or mental. This loosening of identification will loosen the rigid structure of the personality. More space will be created within us.

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